NCLR also released the latest installment of its new series, Profiles of Latino Health: Community Responses to Latino Health Needs, featuring the Hispanic Health Council’s Comadrona/Healthy Start program.
Leaders emphasized, however, that services offered by community-based organizations, such as the Hartford-based Hispanic Health Council, are no substitute for national reform efforts now being discussed in Washington.
During a press conference in the Hispanic Health Council’s headquarters at 175 Main Street in Hartford, more than 50 national and local leaders plus residents gathered to urge Congress to support health care reform policies and programs that will reach Latinos and other groups dealing with poor access to health care.
During the event, NCLR spotlighted the Hispanic Health Council’s flagship Comadrona/Healthy Start Program. In more than 20 years of operation, the program has served more than 5,000 families at risk of poor birth outcomes. The successful program counts on female community health workers known as comadronas to earn the trust of women at risk of having a low-birth weight or premature baby, saving lives in the process. Testimonies of their community work moved many in the audience.
“Every day, these women break the cycle of poor healthcare,” said Jeanette B. DeJesús, President and CEO of the Hispanic Health Council and Latino Policy Initiative. “They find women who are uninsured and hook them up with coverage and care. They counsel and cajole and, in many, many cases, walk their clients through a pregnancy that ends in the birth of a healthy, full-term baby. But they are not a substitute for a national policy that guarantees health care for everyone.”
NCLR leaders point instead to the need for not only more community-based health care programs but also national health policies that are culturally and linguistically appropriate so that all families and workers in the United States can benefit from high-quality, affordable health care.
“The Hispanic Health Council’s Comadrona/Healthy Start program has been proven to reduce poor birth outcomes and has helped nearly 5,000 families since its inception,” said Kara D. Ryan, Research Analyst with NCLR’s Health Policy Project. “This is important work.
However, uncertainties such as budget cuts in hard economic times further threaten health care access for communities. That is just one more reason why these community-based models and interventions, along with other best practices that are already working for Latinos across the country, must be taken to scale in federal health care reform.”
Additionally, Ryan and DeJesús called for Congress to ensure that all children and pregnant women are covered under health care reform and to streamline health coverage access for workers and all families.
Hopes remained high among those gathered that Congress is listening.
“Our broken health care system is burdening families and businesses with costs that have spiraled out of control and will continue to rise unless we take action now,” said Congressman Chris Murphy (D–CT) in a statement to the group. “The goal of reform is to make sure that everyone has the coverage they need at a price they can afford.”
Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) also sent NCLR a statement in support of better healthcare reform.
Other attendees to the event included Linda B. Heraldo Gacad, PhD, RN, of the University of Connecticut School of Nursing; Luis C. Cabán of SINA, Inc.; Carlos Rivera, Director, Health and Human Services, City of Hartford; Enrique E. Juncadella, Director, Community Relations, The Hospital of Central Connecticut; Rolando T. Martinez, Director, Catholic Charities, Institute for the Hispanic Family; Vicki Veltri, General Counsel, State of Connecticut Office of the Healthcare Advocate; Yanil Teron, Connecticut Puerto Rican Forum Executive Director, NCLR Affiliate Council; Jennifer S. McGarry, MS, Patient Services Manager, The Connecticut Chapter; Claudio Gualtieri, AARP Connecticut Program Coordinator for Public Affairs; and Janet Perez-Otero, Hispanic Community Education Specialist, Agency On Aging of South Central Connecticut.